Getting the most out of your appraisal

Last year I undertook my CILIP Chartership and it led me to reflect on my continuing professional development (CPD): what I do, how I do it, why I do it, etc. Going through the Chartership process made me think about my development in a more focused and holistic way (at first glance, yes that is paradoxical). Previously I had set appraisal goals that were essentially “be better at my job and take on some new tasks”, but I began to think about the wider portfolio of skills and experience I wanted to build up to develop as a professional rather than simply develop within my current role.

The first thing I did was to align my Chartership Personal and Professional Development Plan (PPDP) objectives with those of my annual appraisal. This seemed sensible as I might otherwise have had two sets of competing objectives which would have increased the risk that I wouldn’t meet them. After completing Chartership, I wanted to maintain my CPD momentum and good practice outside of the structure and incentive of MCLIP. So, when I recently had my annual appraisal, I tried to ensure that I got the most out of my appraisal and didn’t slip back in to bad habits by using some simple techniques.

Be SMART – this may seem very obvious, but this greatly increases the likelihood of you achieving your objectives.

  • Specific – if you can’t specify exactly what your objective is, how will you know you’ve achieved it? If it isn’t specific, will it be measurable or achievable? That’s not to say that your objectives need to be small, but they need to be specific.
  • Measurable –  how will you know if you’ve achieved your objective if you have no way of measuring it? Some goals you can easily measure e.g. getting faster a completing a task. Whereas some are not quantifiable and this is where you need to be creative, you could try having feelings as your measure e.g. feel more confident when giving presentations.
  • Achievable – this is dependent on all of the other elements, it is well-placed within the
  • Realistic – again, this is dependent on other elements, but it is also motivational because meeting/exceeding objectives gives you a sense of achievement and a feeling of progress – if you set unrealistic objectives you must be prepared for the disappointment of not meeting them and that you may waste effort you could have better used elsewhere
  • Timebound – this doesn’t necessarily mean that you set a strict time period in which to achieve this goal, but it can be helpful to give you focus and ensure that objectives don’t fester on your objectives list, being renewed each time without any action or progress.

Set interesting objectives – this is about you developing as a professional, not just getting better or faster at what you currently do. Tina Reynolds wrote a blog post about using CILIP’s Professional Knowledge and Skills Base to identify gaps in your professional knowledge or experience, which I found a very useful exercise. Taking a broader viewpoint enables you to think more creatively about your objectives, rather than essentially having parts of your job description as objectives. Purely role-related objectives can also risk becoming stale and meaningless, this can be a dynamic and invigorating process!

Having active appraisal documents – your workplace may have templates for use in your formal appraisal, but if you create a table of objectives containing your SMART elements, you can regularly update it and ensure that it works for you. I take my table of objectives along to every 1-2-1 I have with my line manager so I can track my progress and ensure that I am achieving against all of my objectives. Your formal appraisal only happens once a year, but your development is on-going. Below is an extract from my Chartership Personal and Professional Development plan, showing how the document was used to record planned and actual activities:

Objectives table

Actively documenting your progress doesn’t need to be onerous, even just keeping a record of what training sessions you’ve attended is a good idea. Jo Alcock wrote a blog post on using a Google form to record Chartership evidence, I use a simplified version to record activities towards my appraisal objectives.

Recording my activities using the above table enabled me to do a self evaluation of my progress against my objectives, which I used as Chartership evidence and in my annual appraisal. Because I had the information to hand, the process was not time-consuming:

self evaluation

This template (adapted from a few examples listed under resources) enabled me to evaluate my personal performance, but also to reflect on and represent the contribution that achieving my objectives had made to my organisation. Although I have emphasised that it is important to develop as a professional beyond your current role, it is also important to demonstrate how your development benefits your employers – especially if you want to apply for a pay rise or a regrading of your job.



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